Doubtless friends and frenemies alike must’ve conjectured about the absence of this column from last Saturday’s STAR. At any rate, I hope so. How devastating to a certain famously fragile ego system if it should turn out the content of our last publication was so irresistibly riveting as to have rendered my MIA status altogether inconsequential. On the other hand, that I cannot easily recall the last time I had failed to produce at least one piece for an edition of this paper is indisputable proof I am prone to the occasional lapse; that—surprise! surprise!—I am human after all.
Besides, there really was nothing I might’ve written last weekend that would’ve been without the sound of déjà vu. It seemed to me I had served readers and TALK viewers more than enough food for thought in the days leading up to The Great Fall; now they needed a little alone time, so to speak, either to savor or to digest recent occurrences. I decided finally to leave to Toni Nicholas and his trusty assistants such thirsts for knowledge as might still require quenching. Meanwhile I would surrender my stressed-out psyche to the presumed joys of suspended animation.
Alas, I might as well not have bothered. My brain remained sleep resistant, thanks to a recurring phrase that echoed in my head . . . a phrase I had imagined was scriptural until recent research revealed its true source as an Englishman named John Heywood: “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” (To be fair, deeper investigation has since revealed the phrase attributed to Heywood sprang from Jer. 5:21, King James version: “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not.”
It was some time before my befuddled brain allowed me to figure out why it could not elude the “none so blind” mental horsefly. The problem had everything to do with last Monday’s political mudslide, of course. In particular, with Kenny Anthony who, to judge by social media reactions and by word on the ground, must be the day’s most despised citizen. Shortly before he had lost for his party the 2006 general elections and hosted his own RSL program misnamed Conversations with the Nation (it might’ve been better labeled Talking to Myself!), he had famously recalled an experience outside the Castries market.
A woman—a total stranger was how he defined her— had spat out at him a mouthful of venom: Mwen hair nom sa la (I hate this man)! His famously sensitive nature devastated by the depth to which his ratings had sunk since that 1997 December day when he had led the recently resurrected Saint Lucia Labour Party to a landslide 16-1 election victory over a United Workers Party captained by a hapless Vaughan Lewis, the 2005 prime minister had sought an explanation from his listeners: “What have I done? Why is there so much hatred toward me?”
He was handed his belated shocking answer at the 2006 polls, when John Compton—just months before he expired—booted him out of the prime minister’s office. He had taken refuge in purgatory, he later revealed from the steps of the Castries market, while campaigning for the premature removal of Compton’s successor Stephenson King.
As fate would have it King and his Cabinet that included the infamous Super 8, seemed determined to feed themselves to an entity that had bivouacked in purgatory then returned to tell about it from the steps of the Castries market. In 2011 Kenny Anthony was returned to office on his promise of “jobs, jobs, jobs” and an injection into the private sector of “a hundred million dollars immediately upon taking office”—yes, smack dab in the middle of a world recession that already had begun to bite deep shortly before the 2006 elections. Suffice it to say what he delivered was anything but “better days.” No surprise that disappointed Saint Lucians, led by Allen Chastanet, roughly ejected from the House the nation’s premier promise breaker.
But back to my earlier-mentioned none-so-blind mental horsefly. Something about Kenny Anthony had always proved bothersome to me, going back to the late 1970s when an over-optimistic George Odlum had packaged and successfully sold him to supporters of the Allan Louisy Labour Party as one of the leading minds of the region, if not the world. After the SLP had proved victorious in the 1979 general elections, Odlum leaned heavily on Allan Louisy to make his declared genius education minister by way of the senate. Alas, our laws at the time required senate hopefuls to be at least 30 years old. So Odlum pleaded with his procrastinating PM to make the necessary legal adjustment that would accommodate his protégé. In the meantime Anthony would serve as “special advisor” to the education ministry.
Of course it wasn’t long before he landed Odlum his first sucker punch, bang on the nose. Anthony resigned his position at the ministry in the middle of a Louisy-Odlum power struggle that appeared unavoidably headed for disaster. Many thought him a betrayer, a rat that had deserted the sinking Ship of State.
Anthony offered a different perspective: “I had a family to support. I was fully aware of the consequences should the Labour Party be forced into an election that it had no chance of winning, among them that I would be out of work, without a salary. And in our political circumstances effectively unemployable. I was never crazy about being a lawyer but there were few other choices open to me.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger once asked me if I could forgive a friend’s betrayal. My shaky response: “Well, it depends.”
“On what?” Arnold prodded. Before I could offer an answer that made sense, he fired off another round: “What if you knew before you became friends that the individual was capable of betrayal? Would you still have befriended him?”
I shifted uneasily in my chair, into attack mode: “How about you? Do you forgive friends who sold you out?”
He chuckled. “To the betrayer I would say not only that I forgive him but I would also bid him good-bye—forever. Better to be safe than risk another betrayal that could leave me in no position to feel anything!”
Long before he dumped three senators who had dared in the people’s interest to challenge his determination to guarantee a $4 million bank loan for a bankrupt company, I knew Kenny Anthony was capable of betrayal. It had mattered not a bit that the senators had campaigned assiduously with him against nepotism and for transparency and accountability in government matters.
Then there was the time of the so-called OECS Unity Initiative, a Compton-James Mitchell proposition that the then Julian Hunte-led Labour Party had vehemently opposed. At the public invitation of the prime minister some concerned citizens had taken the opportunity to address visiting OECS leaders on their proposal at a meeting convened at a local hotel. Compton had chosen not to attend.
Granted, my contribution on the occasion was not designed to win friends but I certainly hoped positively to influence some of the attendant muckamucks, among them Grenada’s Derek Knight, George Odlum and Kenny Anthony. I reminded the roomful of fatted dignitaries that when individuals especially famous for their disregard for basic human rights in their respective territories gather together under one roof, they do not normally turn into choirboys.
My final words: “People unite for good as well as for evil. I have no reason to imagine your coming together here is for the common good.”
I exited the venue right after I had dropped my short speech that was received in resounding silence. Little did I know, until the next morning, that Saint Lucia’s prime minister had been monitoring the regionally televised history-making event from his official residence at Vigie (some later claimed he had ensconced himself in a suite at the hotel). I learned that he had addressed his fellow HOGs in my absence and—covered by at least three TV cameras—described the STAR as “a cancer on the body politic that needed to be hurriedly excised.” As for the paper’s publisher, the prime minister said he did not represent right thinking Saint Lucians. Moreover the prime minister apologized to the region for my demonstrated crassness that he swore was not characteristic of regular sons and daughters of Saint Lucia, neither indicative of their attitude to OECS Unity. (To date, the project remains an elusive dream!)
My first question to my carrier of bad news: “What did Kenny Anthony say about Compton’s address?” To which he replied: “He said nothing at all.” Much later it would emerge that the professed Labour stalwart had attended the La Toc meeting as John Compton’s paid advisor, therefore was in no position to bite any of the assembled dirty hands, let alone those that fed him.
Oh, I felt so betrayed. So did SCOPE’s Julian Hunte, although chances are he does not recall the La Toc meeting from which he, too, had absented himself. We were both young then, and naïve beyond measure.
We, Kenny Anthony and I that is, in the best interests of Saint Lucia, would in due course put the past behind us. I gave him every support—including platform appearances—during the 1997 campaign that yielded to the SLP 16 of the 17 seats in contention. (Hunte was among the casualties, having quit the SLP in advance of Kenny’s take-over to contest the Gros Islet seat as an independent). In the resultant euphoria I was numb to the effects of the first throne speech, ritually prepared by the day’s prime minister. Like other unthinking Kenny apostles I giggled and chuckled mischievously as the governor general, Sir George Mallet, read aloud that the administration that had served Saint Lucia for over three decades, and in which he had been deputy prime minister under Compton before generously stepping down so Vaughan Lewis might rise, had engaged in all kinds of nefarious practices that demanded nothing less than full investigation.
Here was the greatest cut of all, if only I had seen it as such back in the day—and protested. Perhaps we might’ve been spared many of the recorded current embarrassments.
Last week Kenny and his accomplices were deracinated from office, largely by the nation’s younger voters. But not before the prime minister had betrayed several hand-on-heart pledges and divided the people so that it is nigh impossible now to agree on anything, including the urgent need to reform our constitution. Ah, but oh what fun to learn Kenny Anthony had known for months before the last elections that with him at the rudder the good ship “REDyyyy” was headed for the rocks of oblivion. Instead of acting for the common good, the betrayer in our midst chose to remain true to his nature, regardless of the cost to his crew!